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Content Warning

  • body horror
  • germs
  • blood

Japhet bows with a flourish on the ledge of the destination tunnel, proud of their acrobatics. Felix lands with a frenzy of flapping nearby and, having worried a thousand times during Japhet’s crossing of the gap that they would fall, he berates them for being foolhardy. Japhet ignores this and the two continue into the tunnel until they reach a tightly sealed steel door, studded with fist-sized bolts. Felix commands the door open, leading to a sudden depressurizing burst of suction not unlike a hole blowing open in a stratospheric airplane. The airlock pulls a powerful gust of wind in, along with the two virmen. They find themselves in a cramped room lined with red warning lights leading to an identical steel door on the opposite side. Japhet dizzily remarks that this airlock could be used to pull in and trap enemies nonlethally. Felix agrees before opening the second door, this time warning Japhet to prepare for the pressure change. They are both pulled out into a greener space. They squint at the sudden sunlight. Felix fiddles with the console while Japhet looks ahead. The garden is dimly sunlit and large enough to be called a public park. It is walled off like a courtyard on all sides by vast, faceless structures whose only discernible purpose is to make human beings feel small. Japhet scans the unkempt park. Half its trees are skeletal husks but the rest are spring green. Every surface is crawling wild with weeds and moss, and the paths are littered with leaves and branches. Japhet smiles. Felix calls this the “scenic route” to the lab where he plans to find Maddy. Japhet spots something. A bird resting in a distant tree. Excited to see a live, wild animal in their bleak, polluted city, the two dorks rush up to find that the bird is a lone raven the size of a cat, with five knobby growths on its bill. It is silent. Immediately, Felix begins mocking the raven for being overbearing with the symbolism. Japhet joins in, and the two heckle the wildlife relentlessly for making a scene of their predicament in a town so thoroughly killed off that the abandoned streets themselves bear the looming dread of imminent death. Felix tries shooing it, in some vain attempt to shoo off death. Japhet notices the raven’s odd behavior in the face of a loud, aggressive humanoid. It has not moved or reacted once. Japhet peers closer at the knobs on its face and concludes that the animal must be infected with MimV, the virus that turns human embryos into virmen. Felix questions this, knowing that MimV is essentially a human disease. Japhet clarifies that rare fluke infections of other species are the source of new species of virmen. MimV occasionally infects animals and pirates their DNA to later plant into virmen, leading to their characteristic animal traits. They mention in passing that when these new species of virmen emerge, as opposed to infections originating in existing healthy virmen, the results tend to cause disease like facial tumors in the bird or health problems in virmen.

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TRANSCRIPT

(Internal Monologue) *sound* [Gesture/action.]


Felix carefully flutters to a landing on the ledge, followed by Japhet who hops off the steel pipe with a bow and a flair.

Japhet: Tah dah!

Felix: If you do something that stupid again I will start carrying a punishment spray bottle.

Japhet: You’re right, I forgot my boots.

Felix leads the way down a deeply shadowed alley towards a steel door lined by bulky metal bolts. He begins operating a glowing console beside the door.

Felix: This is supposed to stay closed. Stand back and get ready to run through.

Japhet: Oka—

A sudden depressurizing gust pulls them both into the ingress, twirling every loose end on their persons. Japhet follows Felix a ways further into a short tunnel lit from the walls by rows of red light globes. The door shuts behind them and the winds die.

Japhet: My ears! That sucked!

Felix: Oh yeah, the residential district is in the middle of town, so it’s super low pressure. It’s like mountaintop air up in there.

Japhet: (Still dizzy) This would be a great nonlethal virman trap!

Felix begins fiddling with another red touch screen console on the opposite door.

Felix: Huh, good thinking! I bet this “Lockdown” function could be triggered remotely. Don’t forget to equalize your ears this time. (He squeezes his nose shut.) Like this, and blow.

He presses the function called Unlock on the inside of the exit door and after another burst of air, the two virmen walk through into a greener space. They squint at the sudden sunlight. 

The garden is dimly sunlit and large enough to be called a public park. It is walled off like a courtyard on all sides by vast, faceless structures whose only discernible purpose is to make human beings feel small. The spring green park is dotted with trees ranging from lush pines, to humble shrubs, to skeletal woody husks. Every surface is crawling wild with weeds and moss, and the paths are littered with leaves and branches. Japhet smiles.  

Felix: (Walking up behind them.) This place is separate from the windpaths. It’s wild turbulent up there (he points to the sun) but down here, it’s just… nice. 

Japhet spots something. A bird resting in a distant tree.

Japhet: What are you doing here, leg twin?

Felix: Leg twin? Who me? I’m not lost! I’m just taking us on the scenic route.

Japhet: (Pointing.) No, bird! Real bird!

Felix: What? *gasp* You have sharp eyes. (He strikes out towards the bird.) Mad can wait. I want to look at the animal.

On closer inspection, the bird is a lone raven the size of a cat, with two knobby growths on its bill. It is silent.

Japhet: Me too. What’s a live animal doing in Iceberg City?

Felix: Heralding our doom.

Japhet: Ppppppffffff! You’re absolutely right! Hey, Mother Nature, that's a little too apropos. 

Felix: (Shouting at the raven.) Yeah, come down here so I can help get that stick outta your butt!

Japhet: I'm taking ten points off your final grade, Nature. Sending a gallows bird to look ominously at the survivors of a collapsing civilization? Psh.

Felix: Yeah, you could've at least owned it and sent plague rats or ashen rain or somethin'.

Japhet: We get it; we’re already dead. Get outta here!

Felix: Now I'm gonna leave a bad review of Earth when I die. Two thumbs down! Take that!

Japhet: Scram, you hack!

Felix tries to shoo the raven, laughing loudly with Japhet. The sounds of jeering and heckling are superimposed on the blankly staring animal, which does not respond.

Japhet: Hey she’s acting weird.

Felix: How so?

Japhet: We’re making a racket. I was sure we’d have spooked her by now. (Squinting.) And she’s got knobs on her face too. Tumors, I think.

Felix: Aww, she’s sick. Now I feel bad about heckling.

Japhet: Uh oh, it’s sick alright. I think it has MimV.

Felix: The bug that made us virmen? Animals can get that too?

Japhet: Yeah man, animal vectors are how new species of virmen happen. This thing must have caught the virus from one of Iceberg’s virmen.

Felix: But what’s that got to do with tumors? Catching MimV just turns all your kids into virmen.

Japhet: Yeah, in humans. It makes animals really sick— like, face cancer sick.

Felix: Bummer. Is it gonna make it? Wait, is it gonna hatch little half-black half-white chicks with heat magic?

Japhet: No and (guttural growling) no (abrupt return to normal speech), but that’s not the big problem here. Those tumors grow on animals when MimV starts pillaging for genes to edit into human embryos to make a new species of virmen. But the virus is about as delicate with animal DNA as a uhh nuclear meltdown. Hence the cancer. So if this bird plays the avian national sport and poops on a human, their kids might become a zoonotic species of virmen. Zoonotics are sick way worse than us.


Artist's Comments

Hnnnnnngreen.

The Rabble


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